Jewish tombs targeted with anti-Semitic vandalism in eastern France
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Jewish tombs targeted with anti-Semitic vandalism in eastern France

Police open investigation into swastikas scrawled across graves at Westhoffen cemetery in Bas-Rhin region amid rash of anti-Jewish incidents

Tombs tagged with swastikas are pictured in the Jewish cemetery of Westhoffen, eastern France, December 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
Tombs tagged with swastikas are pictured in the Jewish cemetery of Westhoffen, eastern France, December 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

More than 100 Jewish gravestones in eastern France were vandalized Tuesday with swastikas, regional authorities said.

Vandals scrawled anti-Semitic inscriptions, including swastikas spray-painted in black, on 107 tombs in a Jewish cemetery in the town of Westhoffen, west of the city of Strasbourg.

Regional authorities said the vandalism was the latest in a wave of anti-Semitic, racist and anti-immigrant acts to hit the Bas-Rhin region in recent months and vowed to put an end to them.

Police have opened an investigation.

Authorities said anti-Semitic graffiti was also discovered Tuesday in another village in the Bas-Rhin region, Schaffhouse-sur-Zorn.

A recent surge in anti-Semitic violence and hate speech has prompted soul-searching for many in France, which has long wrestled with its history of discrimination and prejudice against Jews.

French president Emmanuel Macron condemned the vandalism Tuesday, saying Jews were an integral part of France. “Those who attack them, until their graves, are unworthy of our idea of France. Anti-Semitism is a crime and we will fight, in Westhoffen and anywhere else, until our dead can rest in peace,” he tweeted.

A man enters the jewish Westhoffen cemetery near Strasbourg, eastern France, on December 3, 2019 where 107 graves were found vandalized with swastikas and anti-Semitic inscriptions. (Photo by PATRICK HERTZOG / AFP)

The number of anti-Jewish offenses reported to police rose to 541 last year from 311 in 2017, after falling for two years.

Dozens of Jewish cemeteries have been desecrated, swastikas have been found scrawled on the doors of people’s homes, and anti-Semitic motives have been linked to violent attacks, including at least one murder of a Holocaust survivor.

In October, anti-Semitic graffiti was spray-painted on a Judaica store in the French city of Lyon, reading: “Dirty Jew.”

The vandalism was discovered as the lower house of France’s parliament on Tuesday approved a draft resolution that calls hate of Israel a form of anti-Semitism, drawing praise from Jerusalem and Jewish groups.

The 577 members of the National Assembly voted on the draft, which also calls on the government to join other European nations in adopting the definition of anti-Semitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. The resolution was backed by 154 lawmakers while 74 opposed it.

AFP contributed to this report.

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